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Woodfin: President Biden’s ‘Investing in America’ Agenda and Its Lasting Impact on Birmingham

Over the past year, the city has used $12 million in federal funds on a major resurfacing project involving more than 40 miles of roadways that stretch across every part of the city. (File)

By Mayor Randall L. Woodfin

Drive through Birmingham, and you’ll see remarkable signs of progress. The first things you may notice are the streets. Over the past year, we’ve been working our way through a $12 million resurfacing project involving more than 40 miles of roadways that stretch across every part of the city. As we pave, we’ve been adding bike lanes and other features to make our streets safer for all traffic, including people on bikes and people on foot.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

You’ll also see an unprecedented number of cranes, bringing new housing options and other amenities spilling out of our city center; demolition and site work as big blighted sites are brought back to life; and countless neighborhood projects to repair sidewalks, spruce up parks and repair homes.

What’s happening in Birmingham is a testament to our talented city employees, our City Council, our businesses, our community partners and our residents who are working hard every day to make our city an even better place to live.

But it would be grossly unfair not to acknowledge the huge role played by the Biden Administration. President Biden’s agenda of “Investing in America” is already making a difference for Birmingham, and it will have an even bigger impact in the years ahead.

Birmingham received $141 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, and those funds are being used to support some of the projects already in progress. They are helping us remove blight, improve transportation, repair homes, and replace aging playground equipment.

But there are so many more COVID recovery investments not visible that will arguably have even more lasting impact in Birmingham. These are investments that will create jobs and train people for them, improve education for children, expand access to transit and mental health care, and reduce violence and crime in our communities.

Under the Biden administration, more than $10 million supported Birmingham residents struggling to pay rent and utility bills due to the impact of COVID. Through Housing and Urban Development ARPA funds, we have $5 million to increase affordable housing and address homelessness.

Separate from COVID recovery funds, we have received a $50 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize the neighborhoods of Smithfield, Graymont and College Hills. We are partnering with Birmingham’s public housing authority and other partners to replace an aging public housing community, expand neighborhood resources, upgrade transportation, and address derelict properties. This historic area of our city will be home to 900 new, mixed income apartments for families and seniors, with on-site access to supportive services such as workforce resources, coaching, tutoring, counseling and health programs.

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we received $8 million to address safety issues with rail crossings and $21 million to create an urban trail through our Civil Rights District and stretching to the Smithfield area. We’ll retool a little more than three miles of roadways that will make our community more connected, walkable, bikeable and safe. You’ll see new streetscapes, multi-use paths and the city’s first two-way cycle track.

In all, we can point to $30 million in federal support for transportation projects in our city that is helping us with sidewalks, walking trails and other infrastructure to improve the lives of the people of Birmingham.

In addition, our entire region stands to receive tremendous benefits from our recent designation as a federal Tech Hub, which allows us to compete for as much as $75 million in funding to support and expand our biotech industry.

On the eve of President Biden’s State of the Union Address, we’re already hearing criticism about the White House and its priorities. But I don’t want to let this moment pass without acknowledging that President Biden’s agenda has been a tremendous boost to Birmingham. We’ve been fortunate to have President Biden and Congresswoman Terri Sewell in our corner to maximize these opportunities. President Biden’s investments in America have made and will continue to make a huge impact in cities and counties across Alabama.

These are generational investments that are letting us catch up on long-overdue upgrades to our infrastructure, improve our neighborhoods, and empower our greatest asset, our people.

You can see the dividends already as you drive through Birmingham. But more important to me is what a child growing up in Birmingham will see – a stronger community for today and more opportunities for tomorrow.

Randall Woodfin is the 30th Mayor, City of Birmingham, Alabama.